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More Background on Oral Traditions

Up until the 1920s, critical scholars who were deep into questions of New Testament studies had focused a lot of their attention (not all of it, obviously) on questions of textual criticism (how do we know what the “original” text was?) and source criticism (what are the written sources lying behind the New Testament – especially the Gospels?). The former was a matter of concern largely because it was thought that the words of Scripture were inspired by God – so it was important to know what those words were! The latter was a matter of concern in no small measure because of the intriguing questions themselves (was Mark the first Gospel? Did Matthew and Luke copy it? Did Q exist? and so on) but even more because of the significance of their answers for understanding the historical Jesus. If we want to get back to Jesus, and the later Gospels represent alterations of the traditions about him by later authors, then surely the best procedure is to determine our *earliest* sources. And if Mark [...]

My Other Next Book

In my previous post I indicated that I am debating over my next trade book (for general audiences. The one I described there has to do with how Christians appropriated the Jewish Scriptures for themselves, leading to (and being implicated in) the rise of Christian anti-Judaism. It’s a fascinating topic, and I’m definitely planning on writing the book. But something else has come up that is driving my research right now instead, and I suspect this will be the next book. But I’m happy to hear your opinions about the value of doing one or the other first. First I need to provide a bit of background. As I have mentioned a number of times on the blog, I am trying to alternate the kinds of books I write – hard-hitting scholarly work, textbooks for university students, and trade books for normal human beings. My next scholarly book was supposed to be a commentary on the early Greek Gospel fragments of the second century (the Gospel of Peter; Papyrus Egerton 2; and a bunch of [...]

2020-04-03T16:57:41-04:00May 20th, 2014|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Memory Studies|

How Jesus Became God!!

It is time – well past time, some of you may think – for a new thread.   And one is oh-so-ready-to-hand.    My new book, How Jesus Became God, will be released on Tuesday (March 25).  I am unusually eager for that to happen.  I’ve never had a trade book (i.e., written for a popular audience) that I’ve been as invested in.   Many of my other ones have done well, and I’ve been proud of each and every one of them (they’re like your children – you love each of them dearly and deeply ….).   But this is that one that I think is the really important one – in its way, more important than Misquoting Jesus, and all the rest. That’s because the question it’s dealing with is really BIG, in my opinion.   It may sound a bit outlandish, crazy, or over the top, but I think a case can be made that the question of how Jesus became God is one of the most important questions for the history of Western Civilization.  OK, that [...]

2017-12-14T23:30:58-05:00March 23rd, 2014|Book Discussions, Memory Studies, Public Forum|

How Jesus Became God

Ehrman sketches Jesus's transformation from a human prophet to the Son of God exalted to divine status at his resurrection. Only when some of Jesus's followers had visions of him after his death... [button url="" target="_blank" size="small" style="teal grey" ]Learn More[/button]

2020-04-03T17:15:32-04:00March 22nd, 2014|Book Discussions, Memory Studies|

Is History Possible?

One other section that I attended at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Baltimore was devoted to the field of social memory and the historical Jesus. This was a very interesting panel, of four papers, devoted to what we can say about the recollections of Jesus found in the Gospels, based on what psychologists now tell us about memory, and what historians familiar with this psychological work are saying about how the past can be remembered. I found one paper in particular to be especially interesting, because the author, a very smart scholar named Zeba Crook, used developments in the psychology of memory to argue that we can NOT know anything about the historical Jesus. Crook’s paper (I’m reconstructing this from my mind, based on what I heard two days ago; I may get some of this wrong. But if Crook’s point is correct, then I can’t reconstruct the event at all, as you’ll see!) was based on the phenomenon of memory distortion. Psychologists have determined several things about memory and how it gets [...]

2020-04-03T17:41:13-04:00November 27th, 2013|Historical Jesus, Memory Studies|

Lincoln’s Watch and Eyewitnesses

A fascinating news item has appeared in the Smithsonian Magazine. At first it may not be obvious how it connects to Christianity in Antiquity. But I think it does. It is about a watch owned by Abraham Lincoln. Here is the link to the full story, with a photo: So the deal is this, as described in the article On April 13, 1861, Irish immigrant and watchmaker Jonathan Dillon, working for the M.W. Galt and Co. jewelers in Washington, D.C., was repairing President Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch, when he heard of the attack [on Fort Sumter). Forty-five years later, Dillon told the New York Times what he did that day. "I was in the act of screwing on the dial when Mr. Galt announced the news. I unscrewed the dial, and with a sharp instrument wrote on the metal beneath: ‘The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a President who at least will try.'" Note that the watch maker himself revealed what he had inscribed on the interior of [...]

2020-04-03T19:16:50-04:00October 25th, 2012|Canonical Gospels, Memory Studies|
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